Attractions near Yosemite

By Victor Block
This item appears on page 23 of the March 2022 issue.
Fyllis Block inspecting blacksmith shop hardware at the Coarsegold Historic Museum in Coarsegold, California. Photos by Victor Block

During a May 2021 visit to Yosemite National Park, my wife, Fyllis, and I also visited nearby places that many people miss. They added to the story and history of the park and surrounding region, enhancing our appreciation of both.

• The Pioneer Yosemite History Center (8308 Wawona Rd., Wawona, CA; 209/372-0200,, located past the park’s southern entrance in the town of Wawona, contains structures, some moved to this location, that played important parts in the park’s past.

Now spanning the south fork of the Merced River, which runs through the park, is a covered bridge first erected in 1857. People can walk or ride on horseback through it. We were still able to discern the original markings of the builders on its timbers.

Also within the history center is a Wells Fargo office that once operated as a stagecoach terminal and telegraph agency. A blacksmith shop reminded us that those craftsmen were necessary to replace lost horseshoes and repair damaged stagecoaches.

• The Fossil Discovery Center (19450 Ave. 21½, Chowchilla, CA; 559/665-7107, recalls a time, nearly 800,000 years ago, when mammoths, giant sloths and camels were among animals that lived in the area. After they died, prehistoric rivers washed their bones to a low-lying spot, where they have been uncovered and are on display. The collection of some 15,000 specimens is unique for its variety.

Traditional Miwok redwood-bark houses at the Coarsegold Historic Museum in Coarsegold, California.

• We also were immersed in the mid-19th-century California Gold Rush. The towns of Fine Gold and Coarsegold got their names from the precious metal found nearby, and information about mining is among stories related at the Coarsegold Historic Museum (31899 CA-41, Coarsegold, CA; 559/642-4448,

Along with mining-related exhibits, traditional Native American tree-bark houses and grinding stones as well as a blacksmith shop and other outbuildings transported us back to earlier times.

• We also turned pages of the past at the Fresno Flats Historic Village & Park (49777 High School Rd., Oakhurst, CA; 559/683-6570,, which captures the flavor of 19th-century life for the settlers. Structures include two fully furnished homes, compact one-room schoolhouses, and a log cabin that once was part of a lodge along a stagecoach road.

Fyllis and I agreed that these gems would be well worth a visit even without the magnificent national park next door.

Washington, DC

Mammoth skeleton in the Fossil Discovery Center — Chowchilla, California.
Covered bridge at Pioneer Yosemite History Center.